Oops, Our Bad!

Among the worst Orwellian deceptions being exposed by the Pentagon’s Marjah offensive is the ludicrous notion that we’re fighting a war in Afghanistan in order to protect Afghan civilians. The recent U.S. Special Forces air strike in the Marjah area that killed 27 or more civilians, including four women and a child, is a prime example of a cognitive disconnect that has been endemic in U.S. military operations throughout our misnamed war on terrorism.

The Feb. 21 air strike occurred in an area under Dutch control. The Dutch are durn-burnit het up about that, because the day before, the Dutch government collapsed over an initiative to extend the deployment of the country’s 2,000 troops in Afghanistan. (We could learn something from the Dutch on how to throw a peace movement, couldn’t we?)

A Dutch Defense Ministry spokesmodel, who talked to the press at the Hague on what the New York Times described as "customary anonymity," said it wasn’t any Dutch boy who called in that air strike. The Dutch Defense Dude wouldn’t say who did call in the air strike, and unidentified NATO officials didn’t say who ordered the strike in either. Sadly, it’s just possible that nobody knows who called in the air strike. If that’s the case, though, the operations types running the show over there are bigger screw-ups than I thought they were, and I already thought they were colossal screw-ups.

The NATO officials did, however, release a statement that said, "After the joint ground force arrived at the scene and found women and children, they transported the wounded to medical treatment facilities." It’s a good thing the NATO guys made sure everybody knows they took care of the civilians they wounded; otherwise, the Afghans might have gotten mad about all the civilians they killed.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head hatter of the Marjah madness, expressed his "sorrow and regret" over the civilian deaths to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. This happened moments after McChrystal won two out of three falls from a crocodile in a crying contest. Dead civilians? Oops, my bad.

McChrystal’s been wearing a bleeding-heart mask ever since his confirmation hearing in June 2009 when he fed the Senate Armed Services Committee that line of coke about how "the measure of effectiveness will not be enemy killed. It will be the number of Afghans shielded from violence." McChrystal then turned around and, in his first major action as commander in Afghanistan, launched an offensive in Kandahar province designed to kill the enemy.

The Pentagon (i.e., Gen. David Petraeus and his minions) sold McChrystal to the Senate as a counterinsurgency expert. McChrystal was and is nothing of the kind. From 2003 to 2008, he commanded the Joint Special Operations Command, the super secret outfit that reported directly to Dick Cheney and that specialized in targeting, tracking, and assassinating suspected terrorists in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

You can bet a shiny new Missouri quarter that for the five years Stan the Man and his Howling Commandos were running amok in the west end of Asia they whacked a whole lot of mommies and babies more or less by mistake. McChrystal has more blood on his hands than Lady Macbeth. His apology to Karzai for the recent collateral deaths, like his confirmation hearing statement about protecting Afghan civilians, was a talking point crafted for him by the likes of Rear Adm. Gregory "Word" Smith, a career bull-feather merchant who is now McChrystal’s propaganda czar.

Smith no doubt had a lot to do with fabricating the "tactical directive" McChrystal promulgated in June 2009 that ordered a "new operational standard" to "minimize the use of deadly force" as a measure to protect Afghan civilians. Smith briefed the press that not only would McChrystal cut back the air strikes, but ground troops would refrain from "firing on structures where insurgents may have taken refuge among civilians" unless, of course, "Western or allied troops are in imminent danger."

The assertion made by Smith and other war merchants that we can separate the "enemy from the people" in a scenario like the one we have in Afghanistan is hallucinatory. The Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan didn’t invade the country. There may or may not be foreign fighters in theater looking for an opportunity to sock it to Uncle Sam’s infidels, but this insurgency, like pretty much all insurgencies, is a home-based enterprise. What’s more, just about everybody in Afghanistan and Pakistan is related to somebody who totes a gun for the guerillas, so separating the "civilians" from the insurgents would involve splitting genetic material. As one Pentagon planner has aptly noted, “It’s harder to separate the enemy from the people when they are the people.”

Hence, when you bump against insurgents, you bulldoze civilians, and if the insurgents are fighting you, you are bound by the U.S. Standing Rules of Engagement that command you to defend yourself and your unit. And if you’re in danger, which you are the moment you’re in a firefight you can’t withdraw from, you call in an air strike to bail you out of it.

So the June 2009 order to limit air strikes didn’t limit air strikes at all. In fact, at the time the directive was issued, one of McChrystal’s advisers said the order didn’t mean the use of air power would be reduced. It just meant, as the Los Angeles Times related, that the "emphasis" would be on "protecting civilians rather than killing insurgents."

What kind of air strike emphasizes protecting civilians? The kind that drops leaflets that say "Have a Nice Day" in Pashto? And if the emphasis of an air strike isn’t to kill insurgents, why call it in to begin with?

McChrystal has now issued a new directive that will, as the Boston Globe puts it, "limit night raids on civilians." What in the wide world of sports are they conducting night raids on civilians for? McChrystal says, "We didn’t understand what a cultural line it was" to burst into civilian Muslims’ homes. We’ve been busting into Muslims’ homes for nearly a decade now to disastrous results. How could McChrystal or anyone not understand what a cultural line it is to cross? How could anyone not understand what a line it is to cross in any culture? Does McChrystal think maybe the Jews in Berlin liked it when the Gestapo kicked their doors in? Will Americans like it when Chinese bill collectors come for their high-definition TVs and bargain barn furniture?

Like the directive on air strikes, the directive on night raids is classified so we can’t see what it actually says, but Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a NATO spokesmodel, tells us it "does not limit the ability of troops to operate." It’s just that the emphasis of raiding civilian’s homes will now be to protect the civilians who live in them, not to kill insurgents.

It’s entirely possible that the personality disorders with life-support systems that run our military truly believe the lies they tell us, but that doesn’t excuse them. It merely makes them pathological liars, along with the other malignant things they are.

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.